WESTPORT, Conn. – After less than a year of work, Westport’s Levitt Pavilion reopened Sunday with a new stage and redone grass seating to a sold-out house as Weston resident Jose Feliciano played the first concert of the summer season.
For people who have come every year since the concert space opened in Westport, the transformation was breathtaking.
“I think this is beautiful,” said Westport resident Bob Gillespie. “We’ve been coming here for 30 years, and this is a real big improvement. It’s just really, really nice.”
It was a sentiment echoed across the open field on the banks of the river as people settled into the space with their picnic blankets, chairs and food.
“The building has new life,” said Fairfield resident Frank Geiger, owner of Geiger Landscape Architects and one of the sponsors of the renovated pavilion.
“The whole design is gorgeous,” said Elyse Etkin of Westport. “This is beautiful.”
To the builders and architects of the new pavilion, having it completed and ready for performances was very emotional.
“We’re here, right now, on a closed municipal landfill and look at it,” lead architect and Westport resident Peter Cadoux said at the ribbon cutting on Sunday evening. “I think that’s pretty great.”
Many thanks were given to the donors, but a special acknowledgement was given to Mimi Levitt, who gave $4.5 million through her family’s foundation, The Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, for the renovations.
Levitt stood up to a standing ovation to congratulate Westport and spoke of fond memories of the town, 40 years earlier when the pavilion first was built.
“I look forward to returning for years to come,” Levitt said. Her daughter, Liz Levitt Hirsch, said the Levitt Pavilion has served as a model for six other free music pavilions across the country.
“This is, as we so vividly can see, is a community treasure,” Levitt Hirsch said.
After a ribbon cutting with state and local officials, the crowds settled in for the big event: the free concert with Jose Feliciano.
“I’ve wanted to see Jose since we moved to Westport,” said Diana Hodge. “This is a big treat for me.”